Salt Mango Tree


I felt only shame after viewing this Malayalam movie “Salt Mango Tree” on NetFlix along with my wife.

While there are many positive things I can say about my birth country India, there are equally many bad things that exist even today in modern India. I feel very proud when I see global corporate CEOs from India (far outnumbering many other countries), over 100 satellites being placed successfully in orbit by one single rocket launch by the Indian Space Research Organization, the very optimistic young generation in the entire world which India has in abundance, and so on and so forth – it is a rather long list of achievements by India and Indians in a short span of just six decades.

However, the things which went wrong over these same six decades, and which continue to hamper the potential and growth of India still bother me a lot. These should bother all well-wishers of India. What I am referring to here are things like corruption, lack of guaranteed, affordable and accessible education for all, lack of universal healthcare for all citizens, lack of safety and security for women and even for very young girl children, and lack of world-class infrastructure and facilities all across the country including uninterrupted access to electrical power, potable water, proper roads, high speed internet, etc., etc., Though there have been some improvements in the past few years, what India needs cannot be met with incremental enhancements of existing infrastructure. India needs to do what a China has done in the past 30 years of relentless public investment in a non-bureaucratic manner with the sole intention of enhancing the livelihood of its people. Communist China has done a far better job than a democratic India, and I am not going to listen to the democratic nonsense that many armchair philosophers expound on the superiority of democracy. Everything in the corporate world is measured on budgeted outcomes, why not in government and governance?

The movie “Salt Mango Tree” describes one facet of India’s systemic failure in providing quality education for all children. Parents have to run around for getting admissions to prestigeous schools, and are totally stressed out in the process. They have to perform better than their children in school admission interviews. What about children of hawker stalls and poor people? How will they get admission in such schools if the criteria is based on how well the parents perform in interviews? How will they speak in English, let alone come well dressed and well groomed for such nonsensical interviews?

I was seriously embarrassed to see how the movie portrays the anguish of both the parents, who struggle to make a living and save money for their only boy. The movie strongly hints about the so-called “donation” which is nothing but a bribe which parents have to offer to schools. When parents give up on the due process in getting school admissions, they turn towards short cuts such as bribe, and this practice continues throughout the life cycle of their children, embedding and validating the need for systemic corruption. Why would anybody outside the Indian system believe that our quality of education is good and impeccable, on par with the developed countries? Making an incorrect comparison with the IITs and IIMs is wrong, as the folks who get into such schools do so entirely on merit, and they go on to change the greater world in many ways. They are focused on making wealth and very few dedicate their lives to fixing the systemic issues of governance in India (I personally know of only one such classmate).

I am not going to describe the movie here, but the message from the movie cannot be more impactful – to get quality education in India even at the primary level (starting at Kindergarten) today, parents have to prepare well, get trained, perform very well in school admission interviews, and be ready to offer donations. This is not the case in any one of the developed nations of the world. If India wishes to achieve the status of the top 5 countries of the world (not just based on GDP), it has to pay serious attention to education, healthcare, quality of living, public infrastructure, etc., and follow the model of either the Nordic countries or countries like Singapore, where public systems by government trump even the best quality of private systems (which are also available but at a tremendous cost). If India cannot invest at least 5% of its national budget on improving public Education and another 5% on public Healthcare, then the future generations will continue to suffer.

The focus outside India today has turned positive about India after a long dry spell of negative media coverage about the bad things happening in India. I have seen that over the past quarter century (most of which I have spent outside India), and it sometimes used to pain me. I am out of it now and immune to the negative coverage on India. I look for some positive news on India every day. The political news is not encouraging. As I wrote in a recent blog post, my experience in Bangalore traffic in the midst of visiting foreigners was not positive. The “East Asians” detest infrastructure problems as they have long been used to good infrastructure and environment. I make it a point not to bad-mouth India in any manner to them, and I try to keep my views to myself. I tend to talk about the positives and push the envelope for their next visit.

However, as I write here this evening, it pains me again to see that India has not changed in fundamental public services.

Looks like this will be the situation in our life time.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

29th April 2018

Advertisements

The Gas Chamber


I was in Delhi for just 30 hours this week Thursday to Friday.

My wife had warned me to cancel the trip and return home from Mumbai, but I had to go to Delhi for official work. She instructed me to stay at the hotel and apply eye drops every couple of hours (as I had recently gone through an eye surgery).

While I was in Mumbai earlier this week, I saw frightening news on pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution index crossed 700 which is considered absolutely unsafe for everyone, and I saw a doctor stating that Delhi might have to consider a public evacuation of its inhabitants. Delhi overtook Beijing to become the most highly polluted city in the world.

So, I was surprised to see many foreigners (mostly Westerners and Japanese) happily going out of the airport premises without a protective mask. Only one in ten people were wearing a mask, some were closing their mouths and noses with their handkerchiefs. I had my office colleagues with me, and it was embarrassing to witness the situation in the capital city of the country in front of them. We could not see the buildings on the other side of the highway, it was that bad. A thick smog has shrouded all of Delhi, and the government had closed all schools for the week, and was even trying to close all offices.

I did not venture out except for dinner time, and also kept applying the eye drops though I could feel some irritation in the eyes. It surprised me that there were so many folks walking on the roads as though nothing has changed. It amazes me how Indians continue to treat even an emergency situation with utter nonchalance. I saw that the security guards and other staff in the hotel were not wearing any protective masks, and there I saw the failure of the hotel management in protecting its own employees. The idea seems to be “so what” – if we lose a few staff, Delhi can always provide more people to fill the jobs at the lowest levels – utter disregard for the health and safety of staff members.

It continues to be a public health emergency situation in Delhi. And, as usual, the politicians on all sides were hitting at others and laying the blame elsewhere, and I could not see any actions being taken to address the situation on a war footing. While the root causes will take time to fix, it is imperative that the government spends its time, efforts and resources on removing the smog, for example, by spraying water all over the city from helicopters. India has the resources, but lacks the sense of emergency and purpose, and also political will to take drastic measures. Till the time that India starts to really care about population healthcare and human development, situations like these will go with the government of the day taking half-baked and half-hearted measures. India has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, but that hardly matters when people are seriously affected like in this situation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Particulate Matter (PM) is the most critical pollutant affecting most people. Please carefully read the fact sheet that the WHO has provided at its website – I am linking it here Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. The mean figures for PM10 (for particulate matter with diameter of 10 Microns or less) are: 20 for annual and 50 for 24-hour mean. With Delhi’s figure crossing 700, you can imagine the health problems that are going to be caused due to this smog hanging over Delhi. This means that there are billions and billions of these 10 Micron (or less) diameter particles which are floating around in Delhi at this moment, and these are being inhaled by Delhi’s citizens every second – with the underprivileged people in the streets affected the most. There are labourers and children who sleep on the roads in Delhi. The richer folks can afford expensive air purifiers, but the poor cannot. These instances continue in India with no redressal.

Who can we blame?

Is it the current government or the past government(s)? Is it the bureaucracy?

Well, it does not matter. One day people are going to die on the streets of Delhi. And, tourists and businesses will start to shun the city. Unless the government takes expeditious action now, and also stops this phenomenon repeating itself at the start of the winter season every year.

Delhi can now be called a gas chamber, one which needs to be cleansed and allowed to breathe.

Let us pray for the inhabitants of Delhi and not for its politicians.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

11th November 2017

Anti-Climate


President Donald Trump again made history this week.

He withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, which was signed by 195 countries, including the U.S. It was a signature achievement of President Obama, working closely with other world leaders. The U.S. became a leader in effecting positive climate change under the auspices of this historic climate agreement, in close cooperation with countries such as Germany, France, China and India.

Now, the biggest Carbon emitter of the world is leaving this agreement.

President Trump stated that the agreement was unfair to Americans. He promised to walk out of the agreement during his campaign, and he has done so, without so much as consultation with energy academics and the industry.

Good. Now the global climate leadership shifts to who else, but China. Increasingly, China is finding itself in leadership roles due to the vacuum created by the U.S. and it is happily grabbing the same with glee. Why not? Europe is looking for replacing the U.S. with China, and it is already happening this week, with the visit of the Chinese Premier to Germany.

President Trump needs to realize that he does not need to keep all his campaign promises. He is now President of the U.S. and the U.S. has a global obligation not to walk out of agreements that it has signed on. This is notwithstanding the fact that the Paris agreement is non-binding. Once signed, it should stay signed on for ever.

Climate change is for real, and if the global temperatures rise by 2 degrees there will be disaster. I am wondering how come the vaunted U.S. academics in the field of energy and environment did not make serious attempts to influence the thinking of the U.S. government and President Trump on this most critical challenge confronting the planet.

In any case, now that the damage is done, what next?

The world will go on, now with only 194 countries supporting the climate agreement. Who are the three dissenters? Nicaragua, Syria and the U.S. Does the U.S. want to be in this glorious company of nations? President Trump needs to think more carefully about making such critical decisions for the welfare of his own country. It is a wrong and completely misinformed decision.

I am sure that the decision will be reversed. If not by President Trump, by the very next President.

Coal is out of fashion in the environment conscious world. Citizens want clean energy. They want clean air and clean water. Fossil fuels is not the way to go. It should be nuclear energy, solar energy, wind energy, et al………the world is changing, old habits are dying, new habits are taking root with the young demographics……….how can anyone refute this positive momentum coursing throughout the world?

When China and India signed on to this agreement after arduous negotiations, the world heaved a sigh of relief. The most difficult country was India which did not wish to sacrifice economic growth and jobs for the sake of signing the climate agreement. Compromises were made and finally India signed on and the world celebrated, and now the U.S. which applied so much pressure on India to sign, has exited the agreement.

What kind of message does this U.S. action send to India, China and the rest of the world?

Let us hope no other nation exits the agreement.

Climate change is for real.

It will affect the future of our planet earth irretrievably.

If we do not take much needed actions today and strictly control carbon emissions.

So, let us all execute what our respective nation has committed to honour via this agreement.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

03 June 2017

Windsor Nature Park Trek


By now, my readers and friends know that I like to take very long walks (exceeding 14 KMs on the average every day of the week) and trek around the national parks of Singapore. I do not like the hot sun on my skin (which is the usual pattern of weather in Singapore), so I tend to go for my trek early in the morning. However, that does not always work as it is pretty dark in the parks and I am usually forced to stick to the roads in the park/reservoir areas, till the daylight streams in. Usually, I try to finish my walk or trek by 8:30 AM at the latest (during the weekends and public holidays). When my wife joins me for the trek, we start slightly later at around 6:30 AM or even later sometimes, and we return home by 9:30 AM or so. Every weekend day is different, and I enjoy the walking experience more than anything else. Of course, I am interested in the “Fitbit” metrics, and have written about it in my previous blog posts.

While MacRitchie Reservoir and Labrador Park remain my favourites, I also tend to explore anything new which crops up in Singapore. Recently, the National Parks Board of Singapore opened the Windsor Nature Park in Upper Thomson area, which is the sixth nature park in Singapore. I am always amazed how much of greenery exists in Singapore, one of the most urbanized cities of the world. It is the result of conscious decisions made to retain trees and greenery which provide oxygen for the concrete jungle in which we all live.

Further details of the Windsor Nature Park can be found in the official announcement linked below with due acknowledgement to National Parks Board of Singapore, so that the readers of my blog can benefit: NParks opens Windsor Nature Park, Singapore’s sixth nature park, and announces plans for a new Rifle Range Nature Park

My wife and I wanted to go to the Tree-top Walk and it took us more than 2.5 KMs of intense walking through Windsor Park to get there. The other way to get to the Tree-top Walk is via the MacRitchie Reservoir Park with which we are intimately familiar. We thoroughly enjoyed the walk, though when we reached the Tree-top Walk it was just 8:00 AM, and we found out that the Walk opens only at 8:30 AM on weekends and public holidays. Thankfully, the operator of the Walk arrived 15 minutes early, and our wait did not go beyond 20 minutes or so. While the Walk as usual is a great one at a height of more than 25 metres, with lots of things to see on either side of the Walkway, it is not conducive to enjoyment when there are many people pushing you to move ahead. I do not understand the point of rushing through the Walk which offers a lot to be enjoyed by visitors. But then, this is Singapore where people are always in a hurry. We had to move fast forward without so much as getting time to take selfies. For folks who have not visited, this is one of the best experiences in Singapore with an excellent connection to nature. Go at less crowded times like late mornings or early afternoons and enjoy the walk, relishing it slowly.

Overall, we walked close to 7 KMs through Windor Park (to and fro), and enjoyed every bit of it. I realized the value of trekking shoes – my Merrel shoes worked hard during the trek! While ordinary sports shoes might be adequate, it does serve you well to have anti-slip, ankle-protecting trekking shoes with strong grip on the gravel.

I am strongly recommending that you take a trek through the new Windsor Nature Park with its multiple trails, new boardwalks, water streams all over the place, and interesting flora and fauna. Focus on the pleasure of walking through it all, and you will realize how much we have missed all through our lives! Yes, in the past, I never did all this kind of stuff, and my senses were not up to the mark of hearing sounds or smelling fragrances in almost a forest kind of environment. This Park is almost like a forest in a city area with condominiums and houses all around, with a golf club (Singapore Island Country Club) adjoining it, and yet you will get a feel of nature with no intervention capable of disrupting the experience.

Enjoy it while you can. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th May 2017

Gurus not exempt from Law


Spiritual Gurus have long been a bane of many religions around the world.

Their (largely) negative impact has been felt severely in India for a very long time.

Some gurus have positive impact overall. One of them is Jaggi Vasudev, the other is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who runs the famous Art of Living (AOL) Foundation. There are thousands of others, but my simple view has always been that there is no need for an intermediary between God and I, or God and anyone else for that matter. Unfortunately, Hinduism, one of the most enduring religions of the world with over 800M followers, encourages the adoption of gurus to facilitate a communication with God. I do not agree with such a philosophy, though there are other major religions which follow similar philosophies, putting man over man. Humans look for a guide to help them navigate the world, and it is not at all a surprise that a Pope arises to guide Catholics, for example. The plethora of gurus in India does not follow any systematic approach, they crop up anywhere and everywhere where the gullible would fall at their feet and worship them. There are thousands of “magical” episodes when these human gurus have generated simply impossible manoeuvres which continue to fascinate their followers.

However, none of these “humans” are above the law of the land.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, his Art of Living Foundation, and his spokesman accuse the government and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for giving permission to conduct the World Culture Festival in March 2016, which has completely destroyed the river bed of the Yamuna River which most Hindus consider as a holy river. Sri Sri is a charismatic guru, who is close to powerful politicians and the wealthy folks of India, and so it would be interesting if the expert committee’s findings would indeed find their way to justice in the current dispute between the government/NGT and Sri Sri/AOL. I don’t think it was appropriate for Sri Sri to accuse the NGT and the government for having granted permission to him for conducting the Festival.

Where is accountability and humility on the part of the famed Sri Sri?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his AOL are not exempt from the law of the land, and have to abide by the rules and regulations. Being close to God does not exempt him from the rule of law. It would be interesting to see how his ardent followers react to the findings of the expert committee.

It is clear that spiritual gurus cannot run a government, a court or the environment. They should focus on God, not make Hinduism a circus philosophy. It is always good to hear some of the lectures of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, but the wisdom of his speeches does not make him God. He is after all, an ordinary man, like all of us. If he commits a mistake, he has to pay for it. There cannot be an excuse. If a fine is levied (as it has been), then his organization has to pay it. Damage done to the Yamuna riverbed will take 10 years to fix, as per the expert committee. Who caused the damage? Not the government, nor the NGT. They merely granted permission, may be misguided, may be under some sort of pressure. But Art of Living Foundation and Sri Sri are entirely responsible for what happened. Who can contest this assertion?

Again unfortunately, most of us are emotional, and wish to kick folks who do not conform to whatever is the general trend of belief or philosophy, in this case of Sri Sri. If there is a variation to that thinking, then the people who think differently would be termed as traitors to the cause. Nothing can be farther from the truth.

Time to think on environment, time to think about Yamuna River, which has recently been designated as a “legal person” by the courts of India.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar should apologize, desist from repeating such extravaganza, and indeed pay the INR 5 Crores fine. We should all respect the law.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd April 2017

Hygiene and Health


I debated about how I should name this blog post. Should it have been “Toilets, Hygiene and Health”? Or, should it just be “The Indian Toilet Situation”?

There was a recent case in South India (Tamil Nadu State) when a girl child aged 9 years died due to kidney troubles caused by holding off nature’s call for whole days at school. The school spared only 10 minutes for recess between classes and they had just 10 toilets for some 400 students. Girls are disadvantaged when there is not enough time to cater to nature’s call (as do boys but at least they have urinals though no one knows their situation). When the concerned girl complained of pains, doctors diagnosed problems with her kidneys.

Such situations are not uncommon in India where public toilets are in very short supply. The most disheartening thing is that young boys and girls in schools who are the future generation, suffer in a most humiliating manner when they cannot even get access or time to fulfil their most pressing need from a physiological point of view. Government and school administrations should be embarrassed.

Despite the call of the current Indian Prime Minister to build more toilets, there has been no perceptible improvement on the ground. India operates on a federal structure which means that it is not necessary that a State Government should heed the call of the Central Government. The only way is persuasion or defeating the ruling party at the next hustings.

It is time for the people who pay taxes to demand proper hygiene and toilet infrastructure services from the government and public schools and public office buildings. It is the government which has to serve the needs of the people, rather than the other way around. The argument that there are not enough receipts against needed expenses won’t fly as the budgeting process is flawed if it cannot cater to the fundamental needs of the citizens.

According to Centre for Water Resources & Management, India, only 47% of India’s population have access to toilet facilities. And only 36% of these toilets have septic tanks. Given that there are a number of toilet innovations from a variety of private companies in India, it is imperative for the government to buy and install these toilet facilities according to a set formula for population access in both rural and urban areas. While the government now collects a cess related to this program, it is difficult to see the results.

Enter the private corporations of India. Even if the top 50 listed companies of India direct 50% of their CSR budgets towards toilet building (which the government can match Rupee for Rupee), India’s toilet problem can be solved in flat 12 months. Eco and Bio toilets are available today at prices ranging from INR 18,000 to INR 30,000 and the prices will come down if demand is established.

I do not know what we are waiting for. But I do know that children, their personal hygiene and health are getting affected every day in schools, and we have to do something very urgently on a war-footing to solve this problem. Many of us have some discretionary monies available for charity, why don’t we contribute to this magnanimous purpose instead of other kinds of donations? It is proven that if the donor can see and feel the result of his/her donation, he or she will contribute more and continuously.

Time to change the toilet situation in India. Let us follow Prime Minister Modi’s vision but not the slow-moving government machinery. Let us leverage India’s phenomenal private enterprise to solve this problem.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th August 2016

Hazy Singapore


The air quality in Singapore has been worsening over the past few days, and today entered the unhealthy range, with a PSI index of 122 – 145 as reported by the National Environment Agency.

The hazy conditions are the result of the forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia. This has been an annual phenomenon and both Malaysia and Singapore have been at the receiving end of the fires sending plumes of particles across the sea, aided by the wind. While the Indonesian Government has been mounting big efforts to put out the fires this time, the result is yet to be seen.

The haze puts off lot of usual activities like taking a walk in the morning (it was not possible today due to the very bad air quality levels), or even going out to shop. My family decided to stay completely indoors today, and I am sure most people would have done the same. This is not good for business to be sure. Of course, one can argue that once you get into a mall it would be fine, but nevertheless the exposure to haze is unwelcome. All the more critical to avoid haze if one has some medical conditions, or breathing problems. Surely the haze is no good for very young kids and old people.

This phenomenon of haze demonstrates that when it comes to certain matters (like air in this case), the receiving countries have no influence whatsoever over the country pushing the air towards them. It is the weather pattern which helps the particles move towards us. And, it is a bad thing. But, what control can one have, despite being more prosperous as a nation ? Such things are inherently uncontrollable, unless there is a total ban on causes which lead to these forest fires.

Three major economies are involved – Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore – and even then, the cooperation which needs to be demonstrated as ASEAN members is not seen in full force. What are the specific set of actions that the countries affected will need to take to avoid this problem recurring every year ? What is the consensus ? Are there technological solutions ? What are the political solutions ? Why are businesses in Indonesia which are involved in these fires not in a position to stop the fires ? How can countries help each other ?

We have some answers to the above questions, but not all. It is time to find a permanent solution to the haze problem, sooner than later.

Such atmospheric weather conditions are no good for the people, and no good for the business environment. Immediate tangible actions are required by the concerned governments.

Who would have thought that haze is a yearly recurring thing in Singapore ?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th September 2015

The Haze


I did not anticipate this problem.

Haze shrouded Singapore as a result of forest fires in Sumatra island of Indonesia. Indiscriminate fires caused by deliberate burning of trees in the Sumatra forests resulted in a heavy shroud of mist like clouds attacking Singapore vigorously over the past few days.

Yesterday the PSI Index of pollution crossed 400, indicating a worse than hazardous situation, and the Government of Singapore was probably contemplating a general shutdown. But the haze situation improved over the past 24 hours, and at 3 PM Singapore time on 22nd June Saturday, the average 3-hour PSI reading was 122, which was a huge improvement from where we were yesterday. In fact, when I look out from my apartment, I can see clearly far into the open. Yesterday I could not even see the MRT station which is located just 200 metres away !

The Indonesian Government has to act aggressively to contain the fires as economic activities will grind to a halt and the price will be too high for a small country like Singapore. Malaysia has not raised any vocal objection even though the southern part of Malaysia (closer to Singapore) has also been affected seriously by the haze.

This goes to show that what one country does or does not do within its borders can impact its neighbours adversely, and such a situation should come under the purview of International Law. The ASEAN situation and partnerships are such that it would be almost impossible to take a neighbouring country to international court or arbitration. That kind of approach will just not work given the pre-existing ties.

The alternative which has been tried in the past is economic contribution and specialized support to contain the fires. While that approach worked in the past, now Indonesia is slightly richer and growing faster, so it would not take kindly to a “donation” mindset.

So, at the end of the day it is all about dialogue and negotiation to settle the matter.

In the meanwhile, we are all looking for N95 masks to avoid getting into breathing troubles ! And, the pity is that no pharmacy is having stock to supply !! I have personally checked at four different places and they don’t have any stock.

Welcome to the haze and be at the mercy of the forests !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
22nd June 2013

Interesting Tax Question


My wife and me were travelling for attending some wine-related event along a western suburb route in Mumbai recently.

It was 6:30 PM on a Saturday and the traffic was horrendous. We were chatting and talking about everything under the sun. As usual, the talk veered around to the traffic, lack of governance in law enforcement, and the terrible state of Mumbai roads, especially in the suburbs.

On a particularly rough stretch of the road, my wife turned around and asked me a pointed question – why should we pay taxes, when the government seems to be taking care of high-profile people only, even ensuring that the road stretches in front of the famous peoples’ homes are maintained well and smooth, while the proletariat are left to suffer………

I thought about that observation for a moment, and realized that the protests for various things in India have not reached the stage of non-payment of taxes for getting what the citizens want in return. Yes, taxes are paid for ensuring country’s development, not just for keeping some important people happy and paying the wages of millions of government workers who are yet to learn to respect the citizens and their normal needs.

We talked further about the taxes and their impact on a poor country like India – is the money really flowing to develop the infrastructure and the environment and make India a better place for its citizens ? all its citizens ? not just for the rich and famous ??

For a globalized city like Mumbai, which pays over 40% of India’s income and corporate taxes, the situation on the roads leads one to believe we are firmly rooted in the third world. I am not just referring to the broken roads, lack of pavements, enforcement of traffic signal rules, et al. I am also talking about the thousands of people who have made Mumbai roads as their homes – the slum-dwellers who sleep on the pavement (or whatever is left of it).

It behooves all of us to think seriously and purposefully to advise the government on the right steps it has to take in resolving some of these intractable issues. If we are not able to do so, what is the use of all our educational qualifications, experience and money ?

Let us think !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
13th January 2013
Mumbai

Diwali and Crackers


Today is Diwali Festival in India – the “festival of lights”, when “good wins over evil”. It is the main festival when almost the entire country is bedecked with lights and one can hear the sound of fire crackers right through the day (thankfully not late in the night as crackers have been banned after 10 PM). People go to temples for worship and eat sweets and savouries.

I am writing this post because this is the first Diwali when the family decided against the use of crackers and I thought it was hugely important, especially in a conservative setting. We have not been big fans of the noise, fire and pollution caused by crackers, but we have always chosen to join other families in the common ground area to burst at least some crackers and light up flower pots, et al.

But not any more. The reason for this decision landed on us from none other than our son who is 12 years old. He said that he wanted a green planet and hated pollution – no surprise given that Mumbai is one of the most polluted cities in India even otherwise (without the additional benefit of crackers !). I thought it was rather unique he should say such things, may be thanks to his school teaching him about the impact of pollution on our planet.

So, we actually decided not to purchase any crackers and not even to burst any even if our neighbours called us to join.

It is probably going to be fun watching others bursting fire crackers from a distance, and it is going to be a first for all of us in the family !

Of course, this ban did not extend to the purchase of some sweets to celebrate Diwali – we bought quite a bit yesterday for distribution to our car driver, maids, security guards at our place, etc.,

The key point that we noted today is that the sound of crackers has been on a muted note around the place where we live, indicating that people are realizing the impact of pollution and are also affected seriously by inflation. Economic indicators in India do not look good despite all attempts by the government to revive the economy. Retail inflation in October hit 9.75% firmly revealing that interest rates won’t come down anytime soon. Whatever additional money people make this year is going to be eaten away by inflation.

Well, a lesson to seniors – avoid crackers and help reduce pollution. I dare not even walk on the road for the next day or so till the fumes and air clear up.

Wish you all A Happy Diwali and Festive Season !

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan
13th November 2012
Mumbai